1. Do you feel that behavior in the public sphere is better, worse, or about the same, than it once was? Give examples.
2. Can you think of faith communities whose morality is better because of their faith? Can you think of faith communities whose morality is worse because of their faith?
3. What is the role of congregations in fostering morality? How might congregations encourage honesty, decency, kindness and acting honorably towards others?
"Pray for us; we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things." - Hebrews 13:18
People frequently conflate religion with morality, as if they were the same thing. When we are children we imagine that if we are good, God will reward us. But the Christian faith insists that God loves us as we are. As Paul put it: "God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
Those who are honest before God in prayer know their flaws and foibles, their various sins of commission and omission. As comedian Steven Wright so eloquently put it: "A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory."
Still, we humans are capable of great kindness, decency and noble acts of courage. And, though religion isn't morality, religion can and should foster it.
For a society to function humanely there needs to be widespread commitment to what I call "everyday virtue." To "act honorably" towards others is needed now more than ever. One only needs to read the comments section on practically any post in social media to know how viciously mean we can be toward one another.
New information technologies make communicating around the globe easier, but with them have come a coarsening of public discourse. It is easier to fling harsh and hurtful words anonymously across an electronic medium than it is face to face.
The world would be a better place if we all tried to exercise everyday virtue: to watch our words, to tell the truth, to do the right thing and to strive to have a clear conscience.
Forgive us, O God, for all the coarse and unkind words and deeds we have done. And guide us to act honorably in all things.